Farset Labs 2.0: Expanding, renovating, improving

It’s been over seven years since Northern Ireland’s hackerspace opened its doors to the artists, engineers, and makers of Belfast. Farset Labs has spent that time delivering STEAM education, providing a space and tools for the tech and creative scene, and being a focal point for events and meetups. We’ve had a blast, and grown immensely, both as an organisation and – more importantly – as a community.

Many will have noticed that, over the past couple of years, it’s been getting rather cosy in Unit 1, our home in Weavers Court Business Park. There’s just not quite enough room for everyone, the event space is regularly used for overflow from the co-working space, and the workshop is, well, regularly used for overflow from the event space!

We do, however, have some news to share (and some awkward weeks ahead of us).

In the middle of November last year, we got word from our landlord that the other tenants in building, who occupied the first floor, were departing and we were asked if we wanted to take it on. This scenario had been long discussed within the Farset Labs team, but now we had first refusal on occupying the entire building.

While the thought of more than doubling our floorspace was a daunting one, we sharpened our pencils and kicked off the due diligence, and have been working with the team at Weavers Court for the last eight months to bring this dream to reality.

After many, many delays, complications, surveyors, consultations, and long weekends of planning, shuffling, and boxing, we’ve set in motion both the biggest and riskiest manoeuvre that the charity has attempted yet.

The next few months are going to see major changes happening at your community hackerspace, as we begin a programme of renovations and expansion that will stand us in good stead for the next eight years and beyond. Our current location, Unit 1, will be shut to members in the coming weeks and completely emptied by Friday 19th July, while our new temporary premises, Unit 5E, will be available for use from the week beginning Monday 1st July.

We hope to take possession of Unit 1 again in late September and, following a period of internal fit out, have it fully open again in Early October. We know that this will cause disruption to many of the usual activities that take place in Farset Labs, but we are seeking to minimise the impact where possible, and Farset Labs will remain open throughout, though in a substantially smaller space

We’re very excited to share the new space with the community and if you’d like to know more about what is planned, please read on.


Further information:

The renovation and expansion of the hackerspace is a large project that involves Farset Labs more than doubling its floor space by taking possession of the unit above us, making us the sole tenants of our beloved old Victorian schoolhouse, just five minutes from Great Victoria Street and on the doorstep of Weavers Cross, the new transport hub.

Our building, which was once used as the schoolhouse for the old linen mill

This gives us the opportunity to do the following:

  • Provide up to 40 additional dedicated desk spaces upstairs in a bright and airy environment
  • Expand our workshop, adding a new fire exit and access control
  • Increase the size of our flexible event space and improve AV facilities
  • Create a new multipurpose space suited for art projects, teams, startups etc
  • Move the lounge upstairs and create a new dedicated meeting room
  • Add call booths*, a second kitchenette, and additional toilets upstairs
  • Provide lift access to the new floor so everyone can use it
  • Finally, we will now have a single, unified entrance hallway for both floors

There are many other small tweaks and additions, too numerous to list here, from new bench tops in the ground floor kitchenette, to improved sound proofing between floors, and furniture storage for the event space.

This improved canvas has also prompted us to reevaluate the equipment and facilities in the space. Since we’ll be redistributing member storage spaces from the workshop to across the building, we can now access-control the workshop and certain tools within it. This means training will be required to enter it, and further training will be required to energise and use certain tools, which will enable us to accommodate more advanced equipment and processes than we’ve been able to support so far.

We have identified the following as priorities and will be seeking further input from the wider community soon on shaping this list:

  • New workshop equipment:
    • Small laser cutter*
    • Small vacuum former
    • Small CNC router*
    • Benchtop small lathe*
    • FDM and SLA/DLP/LCD 3D Printers*
    • Benchtop power supplies*
    • Oscilloscopes
    • Logic analyser*
    • PCB stereo microscope
    • Dust and fume extraction
    • Heavy duty sewing machine
    • Hot wire cutter*
  • Event space:
    • Updated ultra-bright projection*
    • 1.2kW RMS surround sound system
    • Event recording/streaming equipment*
    • New lighting and backdrop options
  • Elsewhere:
    • New information displays
    • Access control throughout
    • Systems for smart management of heating, lighting etc in the space
    • Teleconferencing facilities
    • New plants and eco friendly features
    • Fixtures for displaying art and member projects

This list is not exhaustive and is dependent on reaching our target level of funding (items highlighted by an asterisk* indicate inclusion in our fundraising drive).

Accessibility was a key consideration in this expansion, and despite many difficulties with providing it in the structure of the old building, a lift will be installed to allow wheelchair/reduced mobility access to all spaces. In addition, key doors are being replaced and widened, improving flow throughout the space for all users. Certain doors, where possible, will also be electromagnetically held to eliminate the need to open them.

The new spaces have been designed to make it as easy as possible for members with accessibility needs to access them, with Farset Labs providing high contrast surfaces, induction loops, and Braille signage where possible. We remain firm in our commitment that people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds should be able to enjoy our space, and we are doing our best to provide this within our means.

(Presumptive) FAQs:

I have stuff in Farset, what’s gonna happen to it?
All member storage boxes will still be available in our new, temporary location, Unit 5E and will be moved over with the rest of the equipment and furniture. If your stuff isn’t in a box, you can either collect it or let us know what you would like done with it via email or Slack.

What’s going to happen to [insert event or programme here]?
We’re going to try our best to keep “Minimum Viable Farset” going in the time being, but that’s going to be mostly co-working/hot-desking, as we’re moving from 2000 sq. ft over multiple rooms, to circa 600 sq. ft over a single room. We’ve shut down the CoderDojo for summer, as well as a few other regular events, and we won’t be taking most new event bookings for the period that we’re in our temporary location. However, these will all be coming back after the move!

Who’s paying for all this?
The reason for the major renovation is related to the building (which hasn’t been fully renovated in about thirty years), rather than our tenancy, so the work being done to the fabric of the building is within the purview of the landlord (although they’ve kindly integrated some of our ideas and requests into the building plans). As for all the office furnishings, decoration, equipment, etc, we’ll be using core funds for that from members dues, so it’s still “our” space. However, we want to do this right, so we’ll be raising funds to make the transition as smooth as possible, and leave us with the best space we can manage.

What’s the network like in 5E?
We’ve worked with our good friends at Tibus to make sure it’s almost as awesome as the connection in Unit 1. A couple of years ago, we invested in some additional FTTC equipment as part of the Super Connected Communities programme and we won’t be able to migrate that over with us to our temporary location, so it’s not exactly the same, but it’s still a very solid and performant connection.

How is access going to work in Unit 5E?
We will be fitting a mechanical code lock this week and distributing the sequence to members, so access will be largely the same as in Unit 1 once it is set up.

How is this expansion going to effect membership dues?
We hope it won’t directly, however, we haven’t changed membership dues in over five years, so as part of the “settling in” period, we’ll be consulting with the membership on the charity’s cashflows and revenue calculations, so that we can make decisions about the long term sustainability of the community together.

One of the major motivations for the expansion is to increase the number of hackers, makers, and breakers that we can accommodate, and this increase in membership will offset the increased rent/electricity/heating costs so that Farset Labs can continue to be core-funded by the community

Further questions?

Please direct any enquiries to info@farsetlabs.org.uk or to @managers on the Farset Labs Slack and we will be happy to answer them. We have been trying to keep members updated through our Town Hall meetings and external event organisers updated via email, but if you have any specific concerns, please get in touch.

Acknowledgements:

This project to enhance the hackerspace is in association with our landlords, Weavers Court Business Park, and we have received additional support from our awesome fibre internet sponsors, Tibus, for which we are ever grateful. We have a fundraising strategy constructed and we are hoping to elicit additional support from the tech and creative community in Northern Ireland – if you’d like to hear more about this, please email admin@farsetlabs.org.uk.

A few notes on Farset Labs:

Farset Labs is a hackerspace, non-profit company, and registered charity based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It opened its doors in 2012 to respond to a demonstrated need for an independent, charitable community of creatives and technology innovators. Farset Labs provides this community with an open space and shared resources to experiment, explore, and grow themselves, their projects, and relationships locally and globally. Farset Labs stands as a valued part of the technology, entrepreneurship, and STEAM outreach communities, conducting collaborations with academia, government, and the private sector across Northern Ireland. It is entirely volunteer-run, member-funded, and has an open governance model, with no salaries or profit-making – all funds generated are reinvested in the charity and the community.

Results of the Director Election

The director election for our fifth director ended yesterday (Monday 5th November 2018) at midday and the ballots have been counted. There were 34 cast ballots from 59 possible voters in this election, giving a 57.6% majority of normal members voting. 

I am pleased to announce that Artemiy Kondratiev has been elected as our fifth director and wish to thank Andy Sheppard for also running in the election; we look forward to further opportunities to work with you in the future.

The breakdown of the results were as follows:

  • Artemiy Kondratiev: 28 votes out of 34 cast ballots (82.4%)
  • Andy Sheppard: 4 votes out of 34 cast ballots (11.8%)
  • Reopen Nominations: 2 votes out of 34 cast ballots (5.9%)
  • There were no spoiled or empty ballots. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at david@farsetlabs.org.uk. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to the whole director team, please email admin@farsetlabs.org.uk.

Election 2018 – Candidate Profiles

Our nomination period has finished and voting will open shortly (emails will be sent to all current members eligible to vote) and in the meantime, you can peruse your options below, consisting of the nominee name and pitch, sorted in alphabetical order:
(Edit 16/10/18: Voting is live until midday on Monday 5th November – all members, please check the email you registered to Farset Labs with for your ballot.)

Artemiy Kondratiev (Art)

What is a hackerspace?

Scattered around the world each one is unique and means something different to each individual member.

In the autumn of 2015, I first visited Farset Labs and the very same week was my first as a member. It has been almost three years, yet I still find it hard to describe Farset. What about you?

One thing I know is that I have been to no other place like it. A place where anyone is welcome to experiment, teach, share ideas, unjustifiably set things on fire, watch opera and everything in between.

In Farset I met many people that I am glad to call friends. It is because of you that I discovered so many ideas and had the opportunity to realise new-found aspirations.

In Farset I met people with whom I share the principles of unbiased exchange of ideas and knowledge. Together we echo the same principles to our local communities in the form of clubs, meetups and mentorship of those on earlier stages of similar paths.

Each year I try to make a snowballing contribution to my community through building upon the experiences of years past.

– Helping at charity shops taught me the value of investing time
– Helping at Coder Dojo, Raspberry JAM and volunteering at events taught me the value of inspiring future successors
– Organizing my own kids’ coding club with Code Club taught me the value of reaching out to communities outside our own
– Co-Organizing Code Co-Op and designing programming challenges taught me the value of peership and collaboration
– Co-Organizing NIDevConf18 taught me the value of bringing together people with differing perspectives
– Most importantly, joining Farset Labs taught me the value of community

Over the years of I have been delighted by the impact of these actions and privileged to have responsibility over them.

As a director, my goal would be simple – keep alive the light of our energetic environment and preserve the welcoming community I encountered three years ago. The areas I will invest most of my time in are:

– introducing a wider community of active individuals to our hackerspace
– providing opportunities to up and coming members of our community
– ensuring that the space remains genuinely useful to our evolving community
– lighten the burden of maintenance to allow more room for efforts in growth
– keep our management practices in touch with the community’s sentiments and beliefs

Our local community is bustling with life and activity – let’s show them what a hackerspace can be.


Andy Sheppard

Hello there! My name is Andy. I’m one of the founding members of Farset Labs, and I’m finally here to pitch in my nomination for directorship. My main reason is that I love Farset, and really want to see it grow. I have experience in leadership, and management and all those other boring things, but I also just really love to help people.

If you’ve ever spoken to me, you probably already know that, but maybe not! I do tend to ramble. In fact I’m rambling right now.

As I said, I just want to see the place grow, and thrive, and I feel that I’d be a good person to see that happen. Once I have something planned, I do my damned best to make sure that happens!

If you haven’t spoken to me before, I’d encourage you to do so! I love to hear stories of people’s experiences, and I also just really love to talk to people. But sure, let me know!

Much love, and all the best, 

Andy S


RON

Vote to reopen nominations if you are unsatisfied with the candidates offered and wish to have the nomination period reopened to new candidates. 


Withdrawn: Zoe Gadon-Thompson (01/10/18)


If you have any queries or comments, please contact the returning officer, David Kane, at david@farsetlabs.org.uk. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to the whole director team, please email admin@farsetlabs.org.uk.

Elections 2018

Farset Labs is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, starting with the original three Directors back in late 2011/early 2012. We aim to try and keep the number of directors at five, and given that we’re currently below that magic prime number, it’s time to launch our 2018 Director Elections. Nominations for Directorship will open from the timestamp of this post until midnight on Friday 28th September.

The Directors of Farset Labs are the individuals expected to set the strategic direction of the charity, and have overall responsibility for maintaining the financial and legal health of the company. You will be expected to join the weekly management meetings and contribute in myriad other ways to the day-to-day running of the space; for example, fielding emails, authorising outgoing payments, and meeting with relevant parties, to name but a few.

You also get to steward a charity that does extensive youth outreach, makes opportunities available for the whole community, and hosts events that benefit all areas of the technology sector. We’re always trying to expand the remit of our offerings to serve even more people and it would be ideal for the incoming Director to aid in those efforts.

Nominees must:

  • Nominate themselves.
  • Have been a member for at least three months (not necessarily in one block).
  • Email david@farsetlabs.org.uk (and CC admin@farsetlabs.org.uk) with
    • Their name.
    • Their ‘pitch’ which is 1000 characters maximum. (Suitability for role, experience, intentions etc.)
  • Be aware that, if successful in the elections, they must not have any convictions that would prevent them from being the Director of a limited company (i.e. convictions under the Fraud Act 2006) or any convictions regarding sexual offences against minors (i.e. convictions under the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
  • Be aware that they have legal obligations as a Director of Farset Labs, including their legal liabilities to HMRC etc.
  • Be aware that, if successful, they will be required to provide details including their legal name, sex, date of birth, addresses lived in the last three years, signature and National Insurance Number for the purposes of registration with Companies House.

Voting will open when the nominee profiles (consisting of the nominee’s name and pitch) are posted publicly on Monday 1st October (Conveniently coinciding with the next Town Hall) and will close at midday on Monday 15th October.
Information on how to vote and the procedures surrounding voting, including the case of a draw, will be posted along with the nominee profiles. The results, barring any special circumstances, will be announced as soon as possible after voting closes, likely the following day.
Any questions can be directed to either david@farsetlabs.org.uk or info@farsetlabs.org.uk. You may also find it useful to review the records of previous elections, available on this blog.
Good luck!

A packed week ahead: ELI5, Christmas Party and Workshop Clearing

December is nearly upon us and with it comes a raft of Farset events! What better way to christen our new and improved Event Space?

Kicking off the month, we have our regular casual talk series, Explain it Like I’m 5, where some great speakers break down a concept they have experience with and present it in seven minutes. We’ve had everything from baking to plasma physics in the past and we welcome talks from the floor on the night.

Join us on Thursday 1st December at 1800 for some truly entertaining talks, plus a Japanese buffet and plenty of time to chat with other attendees. Read more here.

Next up, we have the annual Farset Christmas Party in the form of a pot-luck dinner. Culinary hacks are encouraged and the event is open to all. Bring something edible and bring a friend, but please don’t bring an edible friend – that’d be against the law and not much fun for the friend. Party poppers, retro console gaming and festive treats await!

The Christmas party kicks off at 1900 on Friday 2nd December and you can get more details here.  Do let us know you’re coming via Facebook.

Finally, the management team have been toiling hard (as always!) to improve the Labs and, having been working extensively on sprucing up the Event Space, we’re now turning our attention to the Workshop. As discussed on Slack, the Workshop Clearout will be taking place this weekend (Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th December). Any help is appreciated.

Member equipment that is in member project boxes will, of course, remain untouched, as will any clearly labelled equipment as per the member handbook. If you have left any kit in a position that may have, shall we say, not quite complied with the rules, please give us a shout on info@farsetlabs.org.uk to make sure we know about it and that it’s not disposed of. Any queries, as always, can also be directed to that address.

We’ll be relocating a few pieces of equipment to more suitable homes within the workshop and this should make using the space a lot easier for all. Naturally, this means that the workshop can’t be used for any member projects during the clear-out and we apologise for the disruption.

If you want to see what’s planned (particularly disposal of equipment believed to be communal and unwanted), check out the barebones plan available here.

(The rather lovely featured image is by Kevin Dooley.)